Didion was a nominee for her memoir, "The Year of Magical Thinking," in which she writes of the death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and the illness of their daughter, Quintana Roo. "The Year of Magical Thinking" won the National Book Award last fall.
Doctorow's "The March," his novel about Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's bloody Civil War campaign, has already won the PEN/Faulkner prize for fiction and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Other nominees for the NBCC fiction award: William T. Vollmann's "Europe Central," winner of the National Book Award; Mary Gaitskill's "Veronica"; and two British releases, Kazuo Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go" and Andrea Levy's "Small Island."
Doris Kearns Goodwin's best-selling "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln," was among the nominees for biography. Other biography finalists: Kai Bird's and Martin J. Sherwin's "American Prometheus," about atomic pioneer J. Robert Oppenheimer; Carolyn Burke's "Lee Miller"; Jonathan Coe's "Like a Fiery Elephant"; and Ron Powers' "Mark Twain."
Besides Didion, memoir nominees were Orhan Pamuk's "Istanbul," Francine du Plessix Gray's "Them," Judith Moore's "Fat Girl" and Vikram Seth's "Two Lives."
Updike, a two-time NBCC winner for fiction, was nominated in criticism for "Still Looking." Other finalists were "Unnatural Wonders," by Arthur Danto; Hal Crowther's "Gather at the River"; William Logan's "The Undiscovered Country"; and Eliot Weinberger's "What Happened Here."
For general nonfiction, finalists were Svetlana Alexievich's "Voices From Chernobyl," Robert Fisk's "The Great War for Civilisation," Ellen Meloy's "Eating Stone," Caroline Moorehead's "Human Cargo" and Anthony Shadid's "Night Draws Near."
The finalists for poetry: Simon Armitage's "The Shout," Manuel Blas de Luna's "Bent to the Earth," Jack Gilbert's "Refusing Heaven," Richard Siken's "Crush" and Ron Slate's "The Incentive of the Maggot."
Two honorary awards were to be presented. Bill Henderson, founder of the Pushcart Press, was to receive a lifetime achievement prize. Wyatt Mason, whose essays have appeared in Harper's, The New Yorker and elsewhere, has been cited for reviewing.
The National Book Critics Circle, founded in 1974, has about 500 members.